The 72nd Annual Chandler Invitational gave Payson High track and field athletes the opportunity to compete against some of the finest prep athletes from a five-state area. Some of the so-called “Big Dogs” entered were clutching lucrative college scholarship offers, had posted some of the best marks in the nation this season and were oozing with the potential to eventually shine as Olympic medalists.
Over 3,000 athletes and an equal number of spectators turned out March 23 and 24 in Chandler for Arizona’s second oldest meet, which was originally was held in Wickenburg.
During opening day, the meet was conducted as “open” competition, meaning high school student-athletes of all abilities could enter. The second day was a seeded meet in which only elite athletes who had met certain qualifying criteria were allowed to participate.
Kyle Raecke, Richard Nielson, Morgan Chilson and Janelle Hauptman were among the Payson entrants who received seeded invitations.
Chilson, a legitimate threat to medal in the Division III state championships in May, entered both the 100- and 200-meter sprints.
In the 100, she was 20th in the 32-runner field, crossing the finish line in 13.15.
Earlier this season at the Desert Classic Invitational, Chilson ran a slower time of 13.22 but was third — which is a testament to the strength of the Chandler field.
To earn an automatic berth into the season-ending Division III state championships, Chilson must meet a qualifying time of 13.02. She has seven remaining meets, including the Snowflake Last Chance qualifier on May 4, to reach the standard.
In the 200, Chilson was clocked in 27.87 and was 33rd.
At the Desert Classic she was a tad faster, finishing in 27.67.
The state automatic qualifying time for the event is 27.03.
Hauptman was invited to enter the pole vault and tied for 19th after clearing 9 feet.
In the boys high jump, Nielson leaped 5 feet, 10 inches and tied for 18th place.
Racke turned in an ET of 42.50 in the 300-meter hurdles and was 24th in a 38-hurdler field.
In the “open” competition, Levi Sopeland fared well in the shot put, finishing 18th among 70 entrants with a heave of 39 feet, 8 inches.
Natalie Moceri battled a field of 85 athletes in a crowded 1600-meter run and was 29th in 5:56.39.
Also in the event, Ashley Spear ran 6:14.22 to finish 50th.
In the boys 1600 meters, that drew a Godzilla-sized field of 101 runners, Jamie Wadington took 41st in 4:56.13. In the 800, he was 27th with a clocking of 2:10.28.
Bethany Sprinkle ran to 26th in the 300-meter hurdles in 53.96. The girls 800-meter event drew Sarah Cluff who was 23rd among 59. Her time of 2:39.35 was about 12 seconds behind the event winner. McKayla McCrary entered the 3200 meters and was 41st with a time of 13:38.15.
The girls 4x400 relay team of Jaymi Carlen, Harley Turney, Morgan Chilson and Bailey Patterson made itself proud with a 10th-place finish in 4:23.54. The boys 4x400 foursome — Keith Williams, Logan Morris, Payson Bobier and Raecke — ran a 3:36.19 and was 11th.
In the open 400, Bobier ran 52.82 to inch closer to the 50-second barrier.
In the girls open high jump, Hauptman cleared 4 feet, 6 inches and tied for ninth. Patterson long jumped 15 feet, 1 inch to finish 10th overall. Shannon Austin was over the pole vault bar at 11 feet, 6 inches and tied for 15th.
Both the boys and girls teams return to action tomorrow, March 31, in the Sedona Red Rock Invitational and then return for the Chuck Hardt Coed Invitational on April 3.
The Coed Invitational is one of only two home meets the track and field teams have this season.